I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter

18 Mar

I don’t have to tell you that Steubenville is all over the news.

I don’t have to tell you that it’s a fucking joke that Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the two teenagers convicted of raping a sixteen year old girl, were only sentenced to a combined three years in juvenile prison. Each will serve a year for the rape itself; Mays will serve an additional year for “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.”

I probably don’t even have to tell you that the media treatment of this trial has been a perfect, if utterly sickening, example of rape culture, with its focus on how difficult and painful this event has been for the rapists who raped a sixteen year old girl then bragged about it on social media.

And I almost certainly don’t have to tell you that the world is full of seemingly nice, normal people who want to go to bat for the convicted rapists. I’m quite sure that you already know about the victim-blaming that’s been happening since this case first came to light. You know about the fact that people have actually come out and said that the real lesson to be learned here is that we need to be more careful with social media (i.e. go ahead and rape but make sure you don’t get caught). You already know that people seem to think that being a sports star and having a good academic record should somehow make up for the fact that you are a rapist.

I don’t have to tell you any of that because it’s all par for the course.

What I do want to tell you is that you need to stop using the “wives, sisters, daughters” argument when you are talking to people defending the Steubenville rapists. Or any rapists. Or anyone who commits any kind of crime, violent or otherwise, against a woman.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this line of rhetoric, it’s the one that goes like this:

You should stop defending the rapists and start caring about the victim. Imagine if she was your sister, or your daughter, or your wife. Imagine how badly you would feel if this happened to a woman that you cared about.

Framing the issue this way for rape apologists can seem useful. I totally get that. It feels like you’re humanizing the victim and making the event more relatable, more sympathetic to the person you’re arguing with.

You know what, though? Saying these things is not helpful; in fact, it’s not even helping to humanize the victim. What you are actually doing is perpetuating rape culture by advancing the idea that a woman is only valuable in so much as she is loved or valued by a man.

The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story.

The “wives, sisters, daughters” line of argument comes up all the fucking time. President Obama even used it in his State of the Union address this year, saying,

“We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.”

This device, which Obama has used on more than one occasion, is reductive as hell. It defines women by their relationships to other people, rather than as people themselves. It says that women are only important when they are married to, have given birth to, or have been fathered by other people. It says that women are only important because of who they belong to.

Women are not possessions.

Women are people.

I seriously cannot believe that I have to say this in 2013.

On top of all of this, I want you to think of a few other implications this rhetorical device has. For one thing, what does it say about the women who aren’t anyone’s wife, mother or daughter? What does it say about the kids who are stuck in the foster system, the kids who are shuffled from one set of foster parents to another or else living in a group home? What does it say about the little girls whose mothers surrender them, willingly or not, to the state? What does it say about the people who turn their back on their biological families for one reason or another?

That they deserve to be raped? That they are not worthy of protection? That they are not deserving of sympathy, empathy or love?

And when we frame all women as being someone’s wife, mother or daughter, what are we teaching young girls?

We are teaching them that in order to have the law on their side, they need to be loved by men. That they need to make themselves attractive and appealing to men in order to be worthy of protection. That their lives and their bodily integrity are valueless except for how they relate to the men they know.

The truth is that I am someone’s wife. I am also someone’s mother. I am someone’s daughter, and someone’s sister. But those are not the things that define me, or make me valuable in this world. Those are not the reasons that I should be able to live a life free from rape, sexual assault or any kind of violent crime.

I have value because I am a person. Full stop. End of argument. This isn’t even a discussion that we should be having.

So please, let’s start teaching that fact to the young women in our lives. Teach them that you love, honour and value them because of who they are. Teach them that they should expect to be treated with integrity because it’s a basic human right. Teach them that they do not deserve to be raped because no one ever, ever, ever deserves to be raped.

Above all, teach them that they are people, too.


1,126 Responses to “I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter”

  1. Jayson March 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    I think what you’re failing to take into account is, lots of people don’t care if something bad happens to someone they don’t know. If Joe Baker from down the street breaks his arm, I don’t care. I don’t feel bad if Jack Richardson dies by being run over by a train, regardless of how much agony he died in… simply because I don’t know him. What you’re proposing supposes some sort of universal empathy for my fellow man that I simply don’t have. If you want me to care about female-centric issues (Or ones that are usually presented as female centric), more then ordinary violence, you need to either convince me that it’s worse than ordinary violence, or you need to appeal to my emotions for people who actually matter to me.

    I should note here that I’m actually for equal rights, but for the selfish reason that despite the fact that I am a white man, my civil rights are being rapidly eroded. I support your right to be treated fairly, in the hopes that the rest of you have more of a stake in beating back the constant encroachment of our government on all of our civil rights. I’m just speaking for others who think like me, and don’t care about civil rights.

    • Sheila Burns March 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

      If what affects another doesn’t affect us all, then you are right no one would care. But what affect one does affect us all, whether we realize it or not. If Joe Baker doesn’t have insurance, and gets his arm set at the ER, my taxes, and my own insurance are impacted by that. His pain and suffering is nothing to me, but his accompanying situation is. If he is in my insurance pool (eveyone insured is, due acturarial tables) and he broke his arm by being careless and everyone else in my insurance pool is careless that affects my insurance rates.
      And if your son or father or brother or buddy think it is okay to rape anyone then that does affect me cuz they might rape me. They also may rape you too.
      “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
      ― Edmund Burke
      And when evil triumphs we are all in the soup together.
      So I hope you start caring and acting in your own self interest and take a look at the man box you are in and make an effort to climb out of it.
      As for the erosion of your civil rights…no one is free when others are oppressed. Doesn’t matter if what gender or race you are, if you are losing your civil rigths, everyone else is too, except the key keepers, and even they eventually lock themselves into their own self created cells.

      • prasadgc March 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

        Good points, but I’m a little concerned at the argument that we ought to care about others only because what happens to them may affect us in some way. Maybe I’ve misunderstood your point, but the selfish argument for being moral doesn’t seem right.

      • Sheila Burns March 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

        My argument was specifically in response to the comment prior. But it still applies.
        Selfishness is a place to start.
        Even the Golden Rule, “treat others as you want to be treated” references the self. If internalized into the first person voice it says, “I should do to others only what I want done to me.”
        The only way we truly empathize is by seeing the other as ourselves or equal to ourselves. The only way we really know another’s pain is via our own sensitivities. Those who are not encouraged to identify with other as equals to themselves are insensitive to others; as are those who are not encouraged to recognize and respect rather than to hide their own vulnerabilities.
        Our society must teach our children that we are all equal beings and as a country must acknowledge everyone’s equal rights, which is what the SC is pondering this week in terms of marriage.
        If the laws of my land tell me some people are not entitled to the same rights as others, those laws can only reinforce a standard of inequality. If gays cannot marry the people they love, then they must be less than and it should be no problem socially or legally for me to bully them and deny them their rights because the law says they are less than.
        Equality awareness begins with self awareness. If I am not aware of self and my own true value, how can I be aware of another’s equal value.

      • Jayson April 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

        ‘All of us are in this together’. That might frame the issue a little better, yes. The major difficulty with getting this message through to many men is that rape is often not thought of as a male issue. We both know it is, but as a male in the public sphere, the only time I’m ever really reminded of that is when prisons or prisoners are brought up. How do you get the message that ‘rape is bad’ through to a man who currently doesn’t empathize with women enough to see that, and is convinced that male-on-male rape simply isn’t an issue? The only way I can think of is by invoking the women he (most likely) does care for. It’s a brute force, paternalistic method, but isn’t it the best we have?

    • LDL April 8, 2013 at 1:40 am #

      How can you not care what happens to someone just because you don’t personally know them? Are you completely lacking empathy?

      • Richard April 8, 2013 at 2:22 am #

        You are forgetting that in most cases the victim is kept as anonymous as possible, so you only learn about them in the abstract. They do this to respect as much as possible the privacy of the victims. The less you know about the person the less you are able to connect with them and sympathize with their plight.

      • P O D May 17, 2013 at 8:43 am #

        A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is statistics.
        If you want to influence people, you need to make things personal.

  2. maryhelenc March 29, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    I don’t know, people use the same rhetoric when defending the troops.

    “How would you like it if your son/husband/brother was over there?”

    The idea is not to make someone a posession but in fact a person. It gives these apologist a face to the act. It’s much easier to understand the horror if you put a face to it.

    For example, my ex-husband verbally and physically assaulted me for years. He degraded me sexually, spit on me and humiliated me. But it wasn’t until his doctor asked him if one of our daughters brought home a man like him that he got help and is now trying to take control of his life. Our daughter is not a posession, but it helped him understand that if it wasn’t something he wanted for her, it wasn’t okay to do to someone else.

  3. Julian March 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    Thank you for this well-reasoned post. It has given me food for thought. I would more or less automatically have offered this argument, or a variation, as one reason to condemn the rapists. But you are right to remind us that, at the root, women (and men) are to be valued for themselves, rather than by their relationship to other people.
    The really worrying thing is that there are still people (usually men) making excuses for the behaviour of the rapists. There should be universal disgust and condemnation towards anyone who assaults another person in this way.

  4. HappyCamper March 31, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    Sure. Women/Daughters/Sisters arent objects. Fine, no argument there.
    But at what point are these women responsible for THEIR actions?
    I see more and more women putting themselves in risky situations these days, but yet cry victim when something bad happens to them – as if the world is supposed to be a fairytale where nothing bad ever happens OR better yet, where they can make bad decisions and but the criminals are the ones that are expected to make the good decisions. I dont get it. Watch MTV for a good 3 hours and see what Im talking about. Black out drinking has become a normal thing among ladies these days – with no responsibility. I agree 100% that these two boys were absolutely guilty for the crimes they were convicted of – no doubt. But does anyone think that if perhaps if this young woman wasnt so flat on her face blackout drunk – the door of opportunity wouldnt have been so wide open? At what point are we (women) responsible for protecting ourselves against crime – be it rape, murder, robbery, carjacking, etc.

    For instance, if you drive into Newark NJ (car theft capital of the US) and leave your car running with the door wide open and it gets stolen – would you cry “theft!” or would you say, “Oh, I was irresponsible, I should have known better.”

    I have a 21yr old daughter. If my daughter was raped after being blackout drunk at a party – would I feel sympathy for her? Maybe a bit.

    • filthedesign March 31, 2013 at 4:52 am #

      Are you serious or a troll? The ONLY reason a woman might even be in a situation with risk of rape is because there is a rapist. Period.

      • Pete Laberge March 31, 2013 at 5:57 am #

        RE: HappyCamper and…. “Are you serious or a troll? The ONLY reason a woman might even be in a situation with risk of rape is because there is a rapist. Period.”

        I do think HC is being serious. You are right, of course, morally, ethically, technically (and so forth), that “The ONLY reason a woman might even be in a situation with risk of rape is because there is a rapist”

        But, there are also practical “real world” reasons to consider. Now, I doubt this girl went “that far” on “purpose”, in any way…. YES! What happened was WRONG! But, in reality, there are many cases where women act like…. “you know what”. And well, if you put yourself, male or female, in enough risk…. Bad things CAN happen to you. The sad thing is that young men are often NOT mature. Often, there is a great deal of pressure on them socially. And, young men, full of hormones, and likely “drunk themselves”, are NOT good thinkers. Heck, they are not good thinkers at their best. (I was a young man, once, but I did manage to not get into trouble. But, again, those were different times,) I am not justifying what these little jerks did. And as for what I would like to do to them…. That is best left unsaid.

        Indeed, this is one of the things, that, while I do agree with your original argument, then, this also makes me see, and agree with, at the same time, the OTHER argument: “How would you feel if she was your mum, sister, aunt, niece, daughter, friend, etc.???” I know I worded that very poorly. But it is late, and U had a hard day. Please forgive.

        Indeed, when it come to preventing assault, rape, whatever…. I am of the theory that, any “argument, reason, etc” that tends to “make people think twice, control themselves, act humanely, etc…” should NOT be degraded, begrudged, ignored, etc. Why? Because one never knows what “argument/reason” may make a person act properly, as opposed to wrongly. Indeed, “Oh, what is that were me?” or “Oh, what if that were my sister?” or “This is wrong. Therefore I will NOT do it.” …. are all good and useful arguments, reasons, and philosophies. And should all be available for use!

        I hope you can understand my point. Yes, you will say, “You are a man, sir, and you cannot understand!” Perhaps. You have a valid point. But I do have a sister, 3 nieces, and female friends. And I will welcome ANY reason to make some other male behave “properly”. Yes, if one of these fine ladies were to be harmed in any way, they would of course, “bear the burden” much more than I. But do not think that just because I am a man, that I might not suffer also. Worse, in my case, my age, upbringing, philosophy, and so forth, would impel me to desire “justice”. And I would “go berserker”. I know that in advance. So, I also need to be “protected”. From berserker myself.

        Please know, as I said, that I do, in the main, support, and agree with your original post. But I am a bit on the paranoid side. I will take the other reasons, also, and promulgate them. I want that “extra bit of insurance” they bring to my small worried mind. Because the Real Ladies I am concerned about, are infinitely important to me as people. And I want them to be happy, unharmed people.

        In this matter, please note, you can be right, but so can others. Please forgive my lousy wording. It is late. And note that at 57, I am from a very different generation to yours.

        Take care. And “may nothing, nothing at all bad, in any/every sense of the word bad, evver happen to you”. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But I have always been a dreamer.

      • thebestdefenseprogram March 31, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

        Pete, “In this matter, please note, you can be right, but so can others. Please forgive my lousy wording. It is late. And note that at 57, I am from a very different generation to yours.”

        Actually, no. There are not two correct answers to this question. The facts are the facts, and this is a fact: alcohol does not lead to rape. Think of the number of times you maybe had a bit too much to drink, or others around you had a bit too much to drink, and they were not raped. Happens a lot. Way more than the other. Women have also acted like “you know what” (actually, I don’t. Please enlighten us as to what exactly you’d like to shame women for) without being raped. Again, there is no correlation between a woman’s actions and her victimization except one: she trusted someone to not be a rapist. That, by the way, is really not something to punish, lest we wish to live in a world where women keep to themselves and avoid all contact with men (women are most frequently assaulted by men they know and trust, after all). No, the access to a woman isn’t what creates a victim, since access does not create intent. Intent, on the other hand, does create access.

        As for the Camper, a vagina is not a car. It cannot be left unattended and “running” (Seriously? She left her vagina running?). You have a 21 year old daughter, so your knowledge of female anatomy should be somewhat better than this. The fact you would not feel sympathy for her – would not be able to empathize with your own daughter – says a lot about you. It also says a lot about her safety. It seems you are much better able to empathize with the perpetrator of a violation of a woman’s body. This is exactly what programs aimed at men’s behaviour instead women’s are designed to expose. It tells the rest of us you are the real threat.

      • I get it...but you're still wrong May 8, 2013 at 12:36 am #

        Re. Pete Laberge: “Because the Real Ladies I am concerned about, are infinitely important to me as people.”

        How–why would you differentiate between Real Ladies and other women? I view such a distinction on par with Todd Akin of Missouri’s distinction about “legitimate rape”. If you’re not familiar with this debacle, see this link:


        The term “slut” or “whore” are the words I believe you were searching for in your post’s third paragraph. Unfortunately, these words suggest the degradation of women’s status from human beings (on par with men and your “real ladies”) to sub-human because they are “unable to control their own sexuality”. Your simple use of these words immediately places the blame for all sexual assault on those women, and excuses the perpetrator.

        To give you an example of the problems stemming from these terms:
        a woman is “known” to have slept with 49 men in her community, and she is said to be very promiscuous. One man decides that he wants to sleep with this woman also. The woman refuses him. He sleeps with her anyway. People in the community may say, “she’s already slept with 49 men, what difference does one more guy make?” or “Well, she obviously will sleep with anything that moves.”

        These arguments remove the woman’s initiative. She SAID YES to sleeping with every one of those 49 men. She did NOT SAY YES to man #50. How a person acts is not justification for your actions. If a person dares you to kill them, you are not justified in their murder. Just because a person is dressed provocatively–or is known to often say yes to sex–daring you to become sexually aroused, you are not justified in having sexual intercourse with that person (I use “you” in the general sense).

        Definitions of rape vary from state to state in the USA. The definition of rape and laws regarding rape in Oregon are linked below:


        The other problem I see with your argument is the assumption that the “outside world” is inherently dangerous and filled with rapists and assaulters. First off, that in and of itself is a perpetuation of rape culture. By arguing that rapists and assaulters are ever present in society, one inherently excuses and condones their presence in society. Second, the “outside world” argument assumes that rapists and assaulters are strangers. Unfortunately, most rapes and sexual assaults are done by close family members or members of the victim’s social circle; they are in the victim’s “inside world”. See the link below, please.


        As for many people’s condoning of the argument “she’s your mom/sister/daughter”–just because YOU didn’t mean to imply their status is relative to their relation to men, it does not mean that the statement, IN AND OF ITSELF, does not imply that. The validity and acceptance of this argument is wholly dependent on a culture’s acceptance and praise of bloodline as a measure of worth. American culture holds bloodlines in high esteem. We are infinitely proud of who our ancestors are. As a patriarchal society, we trace our bloodlines primarily through our fathers. E.g., a person is only considered a “direct descendent” of Thomas Jefferson if their father’s father’s father’s (etc.) father was Jefferson. A person is never considered a “direct descendent” if a female relative is the link. Or think of the fact that father’s “give away” their daughter’s as brides. While there is rarely a monetary exchange for the bride in America nowadays, the concept is wholly based on the idea of bartering goods–that is, a bride, a daughter, is a good to be bartered, and her worth is wholly dependent on the quality of her father. Another example–would you marry the daughter of a gang-banger or someone you consider trash? No, because you use the father’s status to initially judge the worth of that girl. “Oh, no. You don’t want to date her, she’s from a white trash family.”

        By accepting and condoning the argument “she’s your mom/daughter/sister”, you inherently promote a patriarchal culture that DOES qualify females’ worth as relative to men’s.

        Let me state again. YOU personally may not consider yourself supportive of the values held by the argument “she’s your mom/sister/daughter”, but your use of the argument DOES promote those values, whether you intend it or not.

        Re. Happy Camper: “If my daughter was raped after being blackout drunk at a party – would I feel sympathy for her? Maybe a bit.”
        First off, I’m glad you recognize that situation as rape, because a person under the influence of any substance is legally unable to consent to rape. Pretty sure that’s true in every state of America. Second off, you’re promoting rape culture by implicitly arguing that it is completely okay for rape to happen in the first place, and that victims are responsible for their own safety. Should we require every female to become a black belt in martial arts just so she can walk to school safely? Should we condone the complete lack of empathy in those who decide to rape?

        I agree that this isn’t a perfect world, and many people will only listen to these flawed arguments. But please recognize that no one is an outsider in this issue. Just because the argument exists, doesn’t mean it’s the *right* argument. If you keep making the same argument that people have made for the past century, you don’t fix the problem, you just perpetuate the system that HASN’T stopped rape.

        To add a little humor, we must become Neo from the Matrix; recognize the failures and actively fight from within! Or instead, imagine that America has a human body, and rape culture is a virus destroying our immune system. Be the antibody that systematically invades every nook and cranny of our culture, fighting the virus of rape culture. ^________^ I’m sure you can all empathize with getting sick.

    • Julian March 31, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      HC, you’re going off-topic. The post was about using the wife/sister/daughter argument, not about the state of the victim. But I’d ask you the question: is your daughter worth less to you when she’s blind drunk? Is she less worthy of the right to security and sanctity when she’s drunk? I brought up my kids to respect other people, to care for them – especially for those less able to care for themselves. Someone who takes advantage of a woman because she’s drunk is (if it were possible) even more morally reprehensible.
      In the end, it doesn’t matter what women do to protect themselves (or men – it’s not common, but men get raped too). The rapists knew what they were doing, as did the people who just looked on and did nothing. If the girl had been less drunk, would that have been enough to protect her? Maybe she should have gone with a chaperone, or worn concealing clothing. Would that have been enough? See, all these ideas restrict the freedom of the victim, not of the rapist. Let’s turn it around. If we know that young men are prone to bad judgment and getting drunk enough to assault girls, shouldn’t we be preventing THEM from getting into that state? Should we allow these men “full of hormones” to be out without supervision? Funny that no-one seriously suggests THAT approach!

      • I get it...but you're still wrong May 8, 2013 at 12:44 am #

        Julian! I think I love you! There was just an episode on my college campus where young men got drunk and became sexually aggressive to some girls, even though those girls were dating the men’s fraternity brothers.
        As to restricting the ability of young men to do stupid sexual things, did you know that scientists are designing a birth control method for men? Not the condom, but an actual, in-the-male-body birth control method? It’s pretty cool!

    • jennydevildoll April 1, 2013 at 12:53 am #

      “Happy Camper”? More like Creepy Rape Apologist. I wonder what your daughter would think or feel if she knew if she were harmed in such a way you could only muster “a bit” of sympathy…”maybe”?
      Then again, your unsupportive pettiness as a parent inadvertently can be seen as another argument in favor of what the author was trying to say…there are people in the world who don’t place a lot on “wives, mothers, and daughters” so the idea that this will drum up empathy in such people may be a bit futile.

    • Sheila Burns April 1, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      Bellejare was trying to improve via our words the thinking of us as a society so that we can better see other human beings as our equals, rather than as open doors of opportunity as you put it.
      Of course the girl is responsible for her actions and their consequences, but she is NOT responsible for the consequences of her rapists’ actions. Her actions didn’t harm them in any way. Their actions harmed her!
      No matter how tempting a woman may be in her inabiltiy to give consent she is not an opporutinity! She is a human being with all the rights of any other human being to be secure in her person. No matter what she wears, no matter how she speaks, if she doesn’t give consent, is unable to give consent for someone to engage with her body, it is an assault on her body, and she is no way repsonible for a sexaul assalut.
      Essentially your post says she was asking for it.
      Essentially your post says, people who make mistakes deserve to be taken advantage of.
      Where is your empathy? Even for your own?
      It is a sad statement indeed that you say you ” might feel some pity” for your daughter if she was black-out drunk and got raped. You don’t even see the depth to which you’ve been brain-washed to perceive females as not equal human beings.
      Or is it possible that you really aren’t gender or crime biased and that if a man was murdered when he was passed out you’d blame the dead man? I don’t think you would blame the dead man. I don’t think you would say he was responsible for what happened to him. But maybe you just are that cold-hearted.

      • Richard April 1, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

        “Of course the girl is responsible for her actions and their consequences, but she is NOT responsible for the consequences of her rapists’ actions. Her actions didn’t harm them in any way. Their actions harmed her!”

        I don’t personally know anyone that feels that she is responsible for the fact these boys
        destroyed their own lives. It seems “tragic” only in the sense that they had everything and
        through their stupidity/callousness lost it all. Kind of like Micheal Vick. He staged dog
        fights where they killed/maimed each other and thus lost years of his life in prison and around $100 million in earnings. You fell sorry that he was that stupid, but he is the one solely responsible for choosing to act that way.

        If what I’ve read is true, that they had made plans to take advantage of her while they were sober, then I would think that even most of their apologists would fade away.

      • Sheila Burns April 2, 2013 at 12:11 am #

        Richard, you wrote “If what I’ve read is true, that they had made plans to take advantage of her while they were sober, then I would think that even most of their apologists would fade away.”
        Seems you are saying that IF the rapists premeditated the assaults, hen there is no excuse, but if it was spur of the moment, then their apologists have grounds for arguing on thier behalf/for blaming the victim? That makes YOU an apologist.

        I was responding to the post that said the girl was responsible for being in a passed out drunk, for creating a wide open door of opportunity. So clearly some do think she was responsible.

      • Richard April 2, 2013 at 2:12 am #

        reread what I wrote.

        I do not accept being drunk as an excuse, but others have stated that being drunk themselves reduces their culpability. I accept that being drunk causes you to miscalculate
        something by a matter of degrees, but there is a big difference from misinterpreting a look
        to think that someone might want you to kiss them and to do doing the acts they did on an
        unconscious girl. It’s impossible to use inebriation as a shield if the actions were plotted prior to becoming inebriated.

  5. Kevin G March 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    This is more the conversation that I think needs to be had; that young adults of both sexes can lack for knowledge and support as they transition to sexual and emotional maturity. They are forced to reconcile new impulses and desires with the established social and moral structures, or with patterns outside of the established structures, some of which are very insidious. There’s a lost opportunity for character building and healthy sexual expression. When an act of sexual violence has been committed, the whole community should sense remorse.

  6. Christophe March 31, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    The points made are valid, but there is always more than one perspective!
    Firstly, Rape is wrong and perpetrators should be caught and punished appropriately (level of punishment is a debate in its own right) I have my own views on what should be done with rapists.

    Secondly, Sisters, Mothers and Wives are people. No one is denying that. In the same way as Brothers, Fathers and Husbands are people too.

    In a World of faceless news, continual bombardment of harassing and depressing insight to the dregs of human nature, a degree of normalisation takes place and people care less about these horrendous events. 
    By calling victims, Sisters, Mothers or Wives; yes the humanisation of a victim takes place (that’s not a bad thing), this may evoke an emotion in someone hearing the news. To feel something is far more potent than to simply hear it, dismiss it and turn off the TV. If you feel something, you might switch off the TV and then think about your newly evoked feeling and give the subject matter some actual thought.

    Sisters, Mothers and Wives are PEOPLE we love. They are NOT our possessions, that gain validity through association with us, they are stand alone human beings.

    To say that women are only valuable if they are valued by men is taking a view that is simple enough to extract but does not represent the bigger picture. It belittles our (men’s) overall view of the women, the ones we are related to, know and love. And the respect that the greater majority of men have for woman/female people.

    There are sad sick men in this World that do not care for humanity and perpetrate crimes against women. I do not believe that those men hold the majority view of mankind towards Sisters, Mothers and Wives.

    Most men want to protect their Sisters, Mothers and Wives (as do they do their Brothers, Fathers and Friends) from danger; be that any type of abuse. It is a simple unconscious instinct to protect someone and even more so when they could be at a disadvantage (which in most cases women are due to the difference in physicality between men and women)
    It’s a normal reaction that does not belittle women or claim them as possessions.

    Humanisation does not equal diminished social & societal standing for women

    Example 1:-
    News Bulletin
    Today flight 737 London to New Orleans went down somewhere in the  Atlantic ocean, 268 people on board where killed and there are no known survivors…
    Experts say they are not sure at this point how the crash happened.

    In other news an apple rolled down a hill etc etc

    Example 2:-
    Today flight 737 London to New Orleans went down somewhere in the  Atlantic ocean, 268 people on board where killed and there are no known survivors…
    It appears that your Father and two Brothers were on board at the time of the accident.
    Experts say they are not sure at this point how the crash happened.

    Reaction to Example 1, wow a plane went down, move on….
    Reaction to Example 2, Oh My God, No! How could this have happened?!? What did they go through?!? 
    And as the process takes place, more and more questions get asked.

    How can we stop this happening again to other people?!?

    It is the same thing to imagine your own family going through a terrible situation (Rape holds a very high rank)

    No person deserves to be Raped and Rapist deserve to be severely punished….

    But to endeavour to get people to think, feel and ask questions by calling victims, Sisters, Mothers and Wives is not wrong.

  7. sakshikumarindia March 31, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    Reblogged this on JUSTICE FOR WOMEN.

  8. Eric Smith April 1, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    So when people refer to a predominately male group, lets say the troops, as our husbands, sons, and brothers this is diminishing them to their relationship to women? I just don’t get this argument.

    • Sheila Burns April 2, 2013 at 12:05 am #

      How people refer to the troops keeps coming up as an argument against Bellejar’s position.
      I’m tired of it. But maybe this will help you “get it.” Soldiers have value in the community as soldiers. No one is trying to get empathy for soliders because others are blaming them for what happens to them in battle. Some may be trying to conjur up empathy for soldiers to get them attention, needed ammunition, body armour etc, but they are NOT arguing against a culture that has no value for soldiers, that sees soldiers as the problem.

      But a “rape apologist” is someone who tends to blame or shift the focus of responsibility from the criminal to the victim, as in “why was she there wearing that, with those people, etc., etc, whats wrong with the parents, those poor young men, their lives are etc. ”
      The argument against those people and their positions is often, “imagine it was your wife, sister, etc….” in an attempt to make the apologist/troll conjur up some human feelings for the victim, and stop blaming or putting any onus whatsoever on the victim.

      We shouldn’t have to do argue with rape apologists or ask them to imagine their own relationships. We as a culture should be respecting and empathizing with and protecting all victims of crime equally, no matter their gender, no matter the crime. And we should turn our backs on rape apologsits. They should be seen as the unevolved sub-humans that they are. We should be protecting victims from them, which is what Bellejar was doing by publishing this. It sure brought a lot of apologists out.

  9. Sheila Burns April 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Show me the law books that says being drunk reduces culpability for a crime!
    Its a crime to drive when under the influence of alcohol. No lawyer defends his client with , “well he’s less culpable, he made error judgements because he was drunk!”
    If you aren’t outraged by rape, no matter what the circumstances, you remain an apologist.

    • Richard April 2, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      Again, reread MY statements and actually understand them this time.
      “I” do not personally accept this as a defense, others do/have.

      Reference “Intoxication and criminal liability” on Wikipedia for a good article on this. Some crimes are not considered “doable” without having
      a certain mental state. As a society, we do not allow this defense in certain crimes anymore since it is just too dangerous to allow such an
      out to be available.

      As to your concept that one needs to be “outraged” by a crime or one is an apologist, that’s just crap. Outrage is an emotion. One can recognize that something is wrong without being emotionally invested.
      In fact, we prefer that our judges be able to look at the FACTS of any event so that actual JUSTICE may occur rather than see another case
      like Emmett Till who was brutally murdered by vigilantes for something he did not apparently even do, and is not a crime in our eyes anyways. They were “outraged” that a black man would dare flirt with a white woman.

      Now RAPE is obviously a crime. These boys have been tried, convicted, and now will be jailed. They have in all likelihood destroyed
      their chances at having a bright future, or likely even a decent future, by their actions. Whether or not their punishment fits your sensibilities
      is an issue you need to bring up with those make the laws which allow for juveniles and first offenders to get lighter punishment than you would like.

      Of course in place like California we have the government releasing many criminals early because there are those who are sympathetic to their “plight” and block the building of new prisons to house them, thus forcing early release of many, including those considered “low risk” because the crime they accepted a plea bargain for is a lesser one than the one they actually performed.

  10. art & life notes April 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Excellent post. Behind it all is the assumption that all human beings have innate value. But why should this be true from a materialist standpoint? The only basis I can find for recognizing inherent, objective value in every human being comes from the Torah – all people bear the image of God.

  11. Sheila Burns April 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    For those who don’t believe in God, or who do not believe God inspires scriptures, especially seeing how many differnent and contradictory scriptures there are, and how easily they are differnetly interpreted, one can beleive in reason.
    An example of that is the Euclidian reference from the movie Lincoln, “Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” [If a = c and b = c, then a = b]
    Then the value isn’t arguable on basis of any scripture, nor is it about how much value or where the value comes from, just the reasonable value that all human beings are equal in value.

  12. Sheila Burns April 2, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    I’ll concede you made some good points here.

  13. Barb April 3, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    I’m a woman. I am a former rape crises worker, former domestic violence prosecutor, and the reason that I did those job is because that domestic violence victim, she was my mother, those sexually assaulted children, they were (some of) my sisters. I imagine those crimes, any violent crimes, and wonder- what if they happened to my family, which happens to be mostly female. The most horrific torture I can imagine is knowing that something happened to one of my children, then to my sisters, then to my mother- not something happening to me. I would, not gladly, but willingly, take any violence that was intended for them. So, I don’t think it’s reductionist for someone to tell another to imagine it was a woman they cared about. The male and female experience of rape is different- I’m not qualifying either as worse but it is different- and most males simply cannot imagine a world in which every after-dark walk, every date with a new person, every trip to a bar, etc., is a potential violent sexual assault, so to tell a man to imagine it was him- I think that for most men, that isn’ea in another person’s position. It’s identifying with the person and attempting to view things from that person’s perspective. Therefore, I think that asking them to empathize with the victim is actually very important. As a mother, i can tell you that asking me to imagine that any victim of any crime was one of my two children- it does help me engage empathy in situations where I may have a difficult time understanding someone’s perspective. In order for someone to think something is so horrific it shouldn’t ever happen to anyone, they have to be capable of thinking it shouldn’t happen to their loved ones. I understand what you mean with the idea that every person has his or her own unique value. But the only way that we, as humans, learn that all humans have value is by learning the value of the people who surround us.

    • Archimago April 3, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

      “most males simply cannot imagine a world in which every after-dark walk, every date with a new person, every trip to a bar, etc., is a potential violent sexual assault”

      Prison rape.

      Click to access struckman.pdf

      (It’s a little outdated, but I haven’t updated my bookmarks in a fat minute.)

      Rape affects men widely. The problem with a patriarchal culture is that it engenders the normalization males’ rape of women, AND the condoning of males’ rape of males (to a puffy privileged six-figure politician, I imagine man-on-man rape sounds unbelievably depraved and icky– best not to think about it at all, right?). Even federal institutions like the U.S. Justice Department condone the rape of male-bodied folk.


      And, just to be circumspect, here’s a gem I have in a physical medium: “Sexual Coercion Reported by Men and Women in Prison,” Journal of Sex Research, vol. 33, no. 1 (1996)

      “our study suggests that the rate of sexual coercion among women in prison is moderately [i.e. relatively] low” (p. 75).

      You can probably find this study online and gauge the validity of it for yourself.

      I don’t mean to downplay the rape of cis-women, transwomen, black women, white women, imprisoned women, free women, any woman. But our is a culture that (sorry to overuse these two words) normalizes and condones rape in general.

      Unless it’s women raping men. Because that NEVER happens, amirite?

      (Apparently not: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2119237/Men-fear-women-Zimbabwe-spate-rapes-harvest-sperm.html)

      P.S. I guess it’s not that we all dislike thinking about man-rape. But it seems like when someone does, man-rape has to be couched as the butt (*cough*) of a joke:

      • thebestdefenseprogram April 4, 2013 at 5:49 am #

        “most males simply cannot imagine a world in which every after-dark walk, every date with a new person, every trip to a bar, etc., is a potential violent sexual assault”

        Prison rape.

        First off, to compare the number of men who fear rape to the number of women who fear rape by invoking the prison-rape argument is disingenuous, at best. Almost all women fear rape because of the overlying rape culture that tells them they are always in danger. Secondly, it’s important that if you’re going to start down this road you use accurate statistics to do so. According the the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

        “An estimated 4.4% of prison inmates and 3.1% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months. Nationwide, these percentages suggest that approximately 88,500 adults held in prisons and jails at the time of the survey had been sexually victimized.”

        So, with 4.4% of all (men and women, as well as transgender & genderqueer) prison inmates (and fewer still of those inmates in jails) compared to approximately 25% of all women being sexually assaulted, and contrasting the populations of men’s prisons with the free women’s population, we’re getting into some pretty small numbers of men living with the constant threat of rape compared to women. Also interesting to note is the rate of occurrence among women prisoners compared to men (nearly twice as many women are victimized) and the victimization of LGBT* identified prisoners compared to heterosexual prisoners.

        Rape is rape, and rape is wrong. But the tertiary victims of rape -the ones who live in a near-constant state of alert- are overwhelmingly women. So, the author is quite correct to assert, “most males simply cannot imagine a world in which every after-dark walk, every date with a new person, every trip to a bar, etc., is a potential violent sexual assault.” To suggest otherwise is a gross misrepresentation of the average male experience.

  14. Sheila Burns April 3, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    Re comment “But the only way that we, as humans, learn that all humans have value is by learning the value of the people who surround us.”
    Really, that is “the only way” ??? Wow I didn’t realize that we as humans are so limited. I have never had a problem realizing others are equal in value to myself. I didn’t have to learn it, it seemed “self-evident,” but perhaps my parents taught it to me before I was conscious enough to be self-aware. I do gain new appreciation for my dearly departed parents every day.
    I guess i believe self value is innate, but can be brain washed and traumatized out of us, as can be the value of others, as we are taught to wrongly identify what self is, and what has value in our culture and what doesn’t.

  15. Shauna Osborn April 4, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Reblogged this on Astigmatic Revelations.

  16. Sheila Burns April 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    “the best we have” you say? there again is part of the problem, the tendency to not look for better, to settle for status quo. Our status quo is such that women are seen as second class citizens still, that being female is a bad thing, that too often the only way men value women is if they are in relationship to themselves. Go a little deeper, value human beings as human beings no matter their gender or relationship to self. Imagine yourself being stalked, cornered, assaulted by someone who is bigger and stronger or has a knife or gun or is threatening your family and who forces you to do whatever he wills. You sound like men don’t have imaginations. They do and they can use them if encouraged to do so, to identify with all fellow human beings, male or female.

  17. jmDon April 8, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Articles like these typify a movement obsessed about being offended over everything. Wrong approach? Fine. Offended by people on your side? Get over it.

  18. Dave April 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    My parents taught me from the time that I was a small boy that rape is a terrible, evil, horrific thing. When I heard about it, either on the news or through word of mouth, I had a nearly instinctual, visceral reaction to it. When some of my friends were raped in college, I saw in detail some of the effects and horror of rape. I didn’t believe rape was any more wrong than I did before, but I had been exposed to a different level and I understood it a little better. A few years after college, my sister was sexually assaulted. I had thought I understood rape before, but this was different. I felt an outrage, offense, and a need for justice and vengeance that surprised me.

    At no point during that process did I question the true nature of rape. It is one of the most evil, reprehensible acts that a human can commit against another. What did change was the personal impact that it had on me. Even today when I hear about the rape of someone that I don’t know, I empathize to a degree that I couldn’t have before it happened to my sister.

    I think that is the true point behind the “wives, sisters, daughters” statement. The feelings and emotions that I have for my sister are different than those I have for the rest of the human race. I don’t feel differently because she is any more or less valuable than anyone else, but simply because she’s my sister.

    I think you’ve completely misjudged the sentiment and intention of the statement.

    • Gaia1012 April 15, 2013 at 3:03 am #

      Very eloquently stated and very heartfelt. Hear! Hear!

    • Sheila Burns April 15, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

      in response to Dave: My condolences for your sister’s experience, and her family. I don’t think that what you recounted deflects in any way from Bellejar’s position. In fact, it rather enforces it.
      What you felt about your sister’s rape was much deeper than you could feel for another person even if you “imagined” the other person to be in relationship to you. Only if the victim is someone you love whom you are close to will you have that depth of feeling. But you had empathy for victims prior to your sister’s experience, based on how you were taught.
      What you wrote translates to me that there is no way to imagine how you’d feel prior to it actually being your sister. Do you have more empathy now for rape victims? probably.
      Do you now have the same level of “outrage, offense, and a need for justice and vengeance” for other victims as you do for your sister? I would be surprised. It is just normal to feel more deeply about people we know and love than about people we don’t know.
      Bellejar’s posiition is about justice for all rape victims as being equal, no matter what their relationship to those dispensing or denying or commenting on justice in these crimes. Justice shouldn’t be about how we “feel” or about relationships with victims, but about what is right, what is just.

  19. Corina April 16, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Since we know that most rapists are fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, coaches, neighbors, friends, boyfriends, husbands, partners….the argument that this could be your daughter, sister, neice, etc. would seem to be little incentive to not rape or to care if someone you know is raped by one of these groups of men. In spite of themselves, the comments from trolls and even some “well-meaning” guys on this blog comment section would appear to prove the author’s point very well.

    • Ganesh Prasad April 16, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      To be fair though, the author’s argument does not seem to have convinced a single person who did not already agree with that view. The comments section only proves how polarising this argument is. Some believe that conjuring up an imaginary relationship causes better empathy and is helpful. Others believe that such artificial empathy based on appeals to selfish feelings is exactly the problem, and that we need to view people as people, period.

      After days of bloody combat, the number of people convinced by the opposite argument remains exactly zero. Well, congratulations on having found the perfectly polarising topic after abortion.

      • Sheila B April 17, 2013 at 1:28 am #

        you see it as an argument, others like myself see it as a discussion. I learned a lot from the discussion.

  20. Anne Murgatroyd April 17, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    Great post. Absolutely valid, important points well made.

  21. Gary May 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    The real problem is that these niggers are going to not be locked up for the rest of their lives and inevitably do this again.

  22. Sheila Burns May 7, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    The real problem is people like you who perpetuate us/them attitudes. No one is truly free if others are oppressed. You sound very oppressive & oppressed. You don’t even realize that you yourself haven’t yet evolved into being a human being.

  23. Aaron S. May 10, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    I don’t know you and I merely happened upon your blog post because I found a passage by someone from ages ago that perplexed me. As it should, because I am a man…and this line of thinking is so ‘granted’ in my conscious that I can’t see a woman any other way, except as; a woman. Inasmuch a woman IS a person, that definition doesn’t help my thesis paper at all, because according to my definition Alexandra Kollontai failed because she is a woman. However, this made absolutely ZERO sense to me; “…I am not the wife you need,…I am a person before I am a woman, that puts it in a nutshell.” Then, “…over and over again, the man tried to impose his ego upon us and adapt us fully to his purposes.” Ok, for me that makes absolutely zero logical sense. Of course you’re a person! But you’re also a woman, and a woman IS a person. Then I read what you wrote, “…by advancing the idea that a woman is only valuable in so much as she is loved or valued by a man.” Those are your words, and qualified together with what this lady said in 1922 actually is helping me understand a little more. I don’t see a ‘rape culture’, but I also see the world through a different set of eyes than you do. And I still yet do not understand the point of view you are coming from. But things are starting to come together for me.

  24. quotingeccentricity May 14, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Reblogged this on quoting eccentricity.


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